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Discrimination in Mexican American adolescents: : examining processes that minimize negative adjustment outcomes

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Recent reports have indicated that there are both mental health and educational disparities between Latino youth and their European American counterparts. Specifically, Latin youth are at a heightened risk for

Recent reports have indicated that there are both mental health and educational disparities between Latino youth and their European American counterparts. Specifically, Latin youth are at a heightened risk for negative mental health outcomes in comparison to their non-Latino youth (e.g., Eaton et al., 2008). Further, 16.7% of Latino adolescents dropped out of high school compared to 5.3% of European American youth over the past several decades (1960-2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2013). Mexican American (M.A. youth in particular, have the lowest educational attainment among all Latino ethnic groups in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). While these mental health and educational disparities have often been attributed to discrimination experiences that Latino youth encounter, there is also consistent empirical evidence linking discrimination with these maladjustment problems. These studies confirmed that discrimination directly related to depressive symptoms (e.g., Umana-Taylor et al., 2007), externalizing behaviors (Berkel et al., 2010), self-esteem (e.g., Zeiders et al., 2013), and academic outcomes (e.g., Umana-Taylor et al., 2012). Few studies to date have examined the underlying mechanisms (i.e., moderation and mediation) that help us to better understand resiliency paths for those Latino youth that display positive adjustment outcomes despite being faced with similar discrimination encounters that their maladjusted peers face. Therefore, the following two studies examined various mechanisms in which discrimination related to adjustment to better understand potential risk and resiliency processes in hopes of informing intervention research. Paper 1 explored cultural influences on the association between discrimination, active coping, and mental health outcomes in M.A. youth. Paper 2 examined how trajectories of discrimination across 5th, 7th, and 10th grades related to cultural values, externalizing behaviors, and academic outcomes in M.A. youth. Taken together, these studies provide a culturally informed overview of adjustment processes in M.A. adolescents who face discrimination in addition to identifying critical directions for future research in efforts to gaining a more contextualized and comprehensive understanding of the dynamic processes involved in discrimination and adjustment in M.A. youth.

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  • 2014